In Chattanooga, Susan Nicholas and her girlfriend, Tonja McCarver, were two of the 336,245 Tennessee Democrats who cast their votes for Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday. Crushed by Clinton's primary defeat and infuriated by what they saw as shady campaign tactics from the Obama camp, the couple marched into their local GOP headquarters and switched parties.
"A lot of people have told us we're crazy," said Nicholas, who said the East Tennessee GOP organizers welcomed them with open arms. "But the Democrats don't care any more about gay people than the Republicans do, unless it's an election. … I have been there for the Democrats and they have pushed us aside."
Once again, Palin was a catalyst for change. This time, McCain's choice of a woman as his running mate won over Nicholas.
"All I can do is vote against Obama," she said. "I just don't like his politics. I just don't like how he cheated Hillary out of the election, how he talked about her. … Now she's just one of his minions."
How to begin? I got the impression early in the election that a majority of the Nashville GLBT community's leaders were for Hillary Clinton whereas the Memphis GLBT community's leaders were for Barack Obama. East of Nashville my sense is that the community was solidly for Hillary. Overall, Tennessee's GLBT community has moved on and fallen in line with Obama.
In one sense, I'm not surprised that Nicholas isn't making the jump. If you believed in Hillary's policies, her as a candidate, or just as a person, it's hard to give up on her. And that's why millions stuck with her right through the last primary contest. I'll admit I was one of them.
But the nomination turned out another way, and most of us understood what is at stake--the Matthew Shepard Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, etc. So most of us moved on and got behind the candidate who is more likely to acknowledge and support our community.
TEP doesn't make endorsements and our political action committee doesn't make federal endorsements. But this vignette deserves comment. So let me add this. I don't believe that Ms. Nicholas will find the same welcome after November that she found the day she walked into GOP headquarters. Some of the Republicans coming out of Southeast Tennessee like Chris Clem, David Fowler, and Jeff Miller have led the charge to make our community the focus of the culture war in this state. They're not legislators now, but the fires they helped ignite still burn.